Bad Scholarship in Illinos

Years after interested parties first began to notice abuses in the program, the Illinois legislature has finally axed one of its more controversial programs.

According to an article by Ray Long and Monique Garcia in the Chicago Tribune:

Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law a ban on legislative scholarships and summed up why the abuses were so galling to regular folks.

“Instead of scholarships going to those who truly deserve them and qualify for scholarships to go to college, too often the program was abused in a political way,” Quinn said. “It wasn’t what you know, but rather who you knew and how you maneuver to get a scholarship. And that really isn’t the lesson the people of Illinois want the government to send with their tax money.”

Apparently intended as a way for Illinois politicians to deliver a scholarship or two to state colleges for poor, but hard working constitutes, it became in many cases a weird office perk, with legislators dolling out free tuition to their friends and relatives.

The legislative scholarships came under massive criticism from Illinois voters after members routinely gave out the benefit to major donors (who certainly didn’t need the perk for their relatives) and the children of lobbyists. The only requirement for qualification was that recipients had to live in the legislator’s district. Numerous politicians, however, tired to give the scholarship out to students from other districts.

It what might be the most extreme example of scholarship abuse, in the 1980s an aide to Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, apparently listed his dog, “Baby Billy Shepherd,” for a scholarship to Chicago State University.

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Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer